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Oct 20, 2019 - 8:26:32 AM
63 posts since 1/22/2013

Hello. This seemed like the best place to post this topic. My brother and I started an acoustic duo (mainly vocals, guitar, and, banjo) and we plan to gig around locally. We decided to buy our own PA since a lot of bars in our area don't have a house PA. I was thinking it'd be a good idea when we get together to practice to use the PA so it feels natural in a live setting. On the other hand when you practice without the aid of amplification you get skilled at "mixing" the sound yourself by singing and/or picking louder or softer depending. I was wondering what some other people do for practice with their bluegrass bands or just general acoustic groups. Do you try and simulate the live setting with a PA or is it just you and the instruments? Any other PA tips would be appreciated.
Thanks.

- John

Oct 20, 2019 - 9:22:43 AM

10172 posts since 6/2/2008

Only my electric bands with drums regularly practiced with PA. The only way for us to hear vocals over the instruments.

While I don't think an all-acoustic band needs to practice all the time with PA, I do think you absolutely need to practice with a new PA before using it for the first time -- otherwise your gig becomes your practice.  There's a lot about PA that is not intuitive, obvious or  self-explanatory.  The most important things you need to learn are setting input gain or trim (totally separate from channel volume), adjusting EQ and controlling feedback.  Mic placement and monitors are right up there, too.

I speak from the experience of running my various bands' PA from the stage without knowing what I was doing.  I eventually learned enough to stop making gross mistakes, but there's a lot I still don't know.

As to mixing sound by playing louder or softer, you still do that even with PA. All of your vocal and instrument volumes should be set to project the top volume any voice or singer will need, without clipping, distorting or feeding back.  (Use your meters)  Then you can adjust your presence in the mix by backing off from the mic and still playing loudly. Or playing softly close to the mic.  Or playing both softly and away.  You can always play softer than the loudest you can play, but you can't any louder.  

There's only so softly you can sing in a live performance. If you feel you must sing softly, be practically kissing the mic.

Finally: If you really prefer the idea mixing by the controlling dynamics of your live playing, then try the single mic method and the "Bluegrass ballet": one high-quality condenser mic front and center. Lead vocalist gets right up on it. Everybody else is nearby, ready to step forward for their solos.  Or two mics up front to give you more room.  A pick-up band I occasionally play with did the single-mic method at a farm market yesterday and it worked great.  Only shortcoming was bass didn't come through a lot. The bass player had intended to play through his pickup and amp but he forgot his amp at home.

Oct 20, 2019 - 9:57:18 AM

10172 posts since 6/2/2008

Follow-up to add:

This is the microphone we used at our farm market gig yesterday. Ear Trumpet "Delphina"

For this band, I'm not the PA guy. These mics are too pricey for me. Leader/PA owner says he gets them used -- he has two.

We couldn't use two yesterday because they require phantom power which the Bose pole array system does not provide. Leader had only one phantom power device, so we played with one mic.

It was an excellent set-up for the outdoor venue. Great sound for the people gathered around to listen and sitting under the adjacent tent, barely audible elsewhere in the market so customers and sellers could hear each other.

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:47:52 AM
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268 posts since 5/29/2015

ALWAYS practice in the same mode as you perform.

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:53:07 AM

2722 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by johnsavel

Hello. This seemed like the best place to post this topic. My brother and I started an acoustic duo (mainly vocals, guitar, and, banjo) and we plan to gig around locally. We decided to buy our own PA since a lot of bars in our area don't have a house PA. I was thinking it'd be a good idea when we get together to practice to use the PA so it feels natural in a live setting. On the other hand when you practice without the aid of amplification you get skilled at "mixing" the sound yourself by singing and/or picking louder or softer depending. I was wondering what some other people do for practice with their bluegrass bands or just general acoustic groups. Do you try and simulate the live setting with a PA or is it just you and the instruments? Any other PA tips would be appreciated.
Thanks.

- John


It's a good idea to get experience ; one aspect is how playing on stage is different sound than in the living room; for a lot of reasons; not just PA. 

Of course using amplification, microphones, PUs, perhaps monitors... it's good idea to get experience with how to use those, setting it up... doing sound check... knowing options in how to make adjustments, and dealing with issues that might come up. (issues come up, every room is different).

 ...when you practice without the aid of amplification you get skilled at "mixing" the sound yourself by singing and/or picking louder or softer depending.

Most folks still use that skill of adjusting dynamics; playing louder/softer. Practicing with the sound equipment doesn't change that. One thing many folks find on stage is that they can't hear each other, the mix, or sometimes their own instrument; at least like they are used to. (esp in noisy environments like bars). There are other important considerations; a main thing is monitoring if set up so what you are hearing is the same as what the audience hears.  It's often not as easy as folks initially think. Of course going with just acoustic; no monitor speakers it's critical to understand mic placement and distance. As well, how different mics and distance affects tone.  Recording gives a some idea to how things might sound to an audience. 

Of course, once folks have a good experience with stage, mics... it becomes less of an issue to practice that way.

Edited by - banjoak on 10/21/2019 06:57:00

Oct 21, 2019 - 7:00:47 AM

16 posts since 7/19/2019

As the others have said, practice how you intend on performing.
I like to distinguish what's going on by using certain verbage with my band mates.
If we are practicing, its more laid back, unplugged, shoot ideas around work on difficult lines and measures and generally just try and get things moving in a creative direction. If mistakes are made we can stop and just practice those parts over and over or create something to work around.

However, if we are having a rehearsal, we are playing the show just without an audience. PA and all.

Also, we use an ear trumpet labs mic as well and self mix best we can for my duo/sometimes trio. I prefer it to most other ways as far as sound goes.

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